When Sara Esperance and Chelsey Clark went on their first date, they wound up spending about 14 hours together.
After the two had gone to lunch and spent more time getting to know each other, Sara’s aunt called to make sure she would be at their family dinner in just a few minutes.
“So I asked Chelsey: Either we have to end this, or do you want to go with me? She met my entire family,” Sara says. “The joke in our family is when you date one of us you get all of us. We’re really, really close.”
That was in 2011, and although Sara wanted to be with someone five years before thinking about marriage, she says she knew very soon after they started dating that this was special.
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“I knew right away, and we talked about it, and Chelsey said no, and I didn’t push it,” Sara says. “Then there was kind of an event that happened in our lives that made us realize we really do want to be with each other.”
In July 2015, high schooler Autumn Veatch, whom Sara had known since she was a young child, survived a plane crash that killed her step-grandparents. After Veatch walked out of the North Cascades wilderness to safety and was found, Chelsey and Sara helped talk to the press as people tried to learn more about the teenager’s amazing survival.
“Her experience with this traumatic event, her perspective on life … it got us talking about our own values, what we want in life, what we don’t,” Sara says. “We had both agreed one thing we did want in life was each other.”
I believe there’s one fish in the sea for you. We’re just meant to be.
And they had talked about this before. The couple had gone to premarital counseling before they were even engaged, to make sure they shared values and could communicate with each other.
“People have this very romanticized idea about love and marriage,” Sara says. “We would ask, ‘How do you know there isn’t someone else more compatible for you? Maybe there is, but I don’t want to be with that person if I can’t be with you.”
Chelsey has a slightly different take on it.
“A lot of people believe in different things, but I don’t believe there’s more than one soul mate out there for you necessarily,” Chelsey says. “I believe there’s one fish in the sea for you. We’re just meant to be.”
Chelsey says she had just come out as a gay woman before she met Sara, and it feels like they’ve been dating for much longer than five years.
“My life didn’t start before I met you,” Chelsey says to Sara. “You complete me.”
They were married July 23, 2016, at The Lavender House in Lynden.
Each year the owners there host a large Vintage Market, and they had been thinking about getting into hosting other events when the couple was introduced to them through a friend.
The ceremony was held in woods on the property that the owners turned into a gathering space just for the wedding.
We got asked a lot like, ‘Who’s the groom?’ and we’re like, ‘We’re both brides.’
Benches were made from the trees that were cleared, and stumps of various heights were placed at the front with candles on top to create a makeshift altar.
“Mexican wedding flags were important to me, so we had those all around,” Sara says.
They had Tiffany blue, white and gold as their colors and no bridal party, which kept things simpler.
“We got asked a lot like, ‘Who’s the groom?’ and we’re like, ‘We’re both brides,’” Sara says. “So Chelsey’s dad walked her down the aisle and my mom walked me down cause she’s a single mom.”
The couple spent hours and hours cutting up vintage books to make banners out of the triangular paper flags. Their families helped a lot, especially Chelsey’s mom, who worked right up to the day of the wedding helping with planning and pulling everything off.
They both said their favorite thing about the day was the fact they were able to be married.
“One of my favorite things about the marriage itself, and this is something we talk about a lot, is the fact that we could be wives, that we could get married. That’s new,” Sara says. “The fact we can get engaged and have not just a commitment ceremony, but a legal wedding, the fact we could have that and have the same rights as everyone else was pretty incredible.”
By: Karen Ready and William Jeffries